Inclement weather coupled with the ongoing bandh has transformed the Queen of the Hills into a ghost town.
To add to the woes, the rain and cyclonic winds continued throughout Wednesday
Darjeeling town was hit by a cyclone on Monday, resulting in trees and electric poles being uprooted throughout the town and neighbouring areas.
The town is reeling under a power breakdown for the past 48 hours.
The Darjeeling municipality has pegged damages in the cyclone at around Rs1 crore 8 lakh.
“The amount can increase as people are still coming to the municipality with damage reports. Our engineers are surveying and, accordingly, a C2A report will be sent to the state government for relief funds,” said Amar Singh Rai, chairman, Darjeeling municipality.
The municipality has levelled allegations against the district administration for allegedly not taking a proactive role in restoration work.
“I tried to contact the disaster management department under the district administration as we required electric saws to clear the huge tree trunks that are strewn all over the town. The department informed us that they have two such saws but both are out of order. I then asked the municipality conservancy and municipality engineering departments to clear up all roadblocks owing to the uprooted trees. Disaster management seems to be there in pen and paper only. There is no implementation, no preparedness,” said Rai.
Rai said many were apprehensive regarding the felling of trees that were on the verge of being uprooted and could cause damage to property and human life as permission is required to fell such trees from the forest department.
“The municipality has clearly instructed them that this is an emergent situation and a question of life and death. Hence, such trees can be felled. As the municipality cannot pay for the felling and clearing we got the people who are experts in this job and asked them to take away the wood they cleared,” said Rai.
Rai said around eight families have been displaced in the St Paul’s School area and the Bhutia Bustee area in Darjeeling town owing to their houses being damaged in the cyclone.
“We have shifted them to the Darjeeling youth hostel, primary school building in Bhutia Bustee and Community Hall at the Bustee. Most of the houses are partially damaged in these areas with their tin roofs blown away,”said Rai.
The chairman said AK Sinha, the zonal manager of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL), arrived in Darjeeling along with six engineers from Siliguri on Tuesday evening.
“The zonal manager informed us that damages have been extensive but they are working on a war footing. They expect to restore electricity to parts of the town by Thursday,” said Rai.
The drinking water supply is back on track with the main water pipe below the Gymkhana Club in Darjeeling town, which had been damaged already repaired.
Reacting to the allegations by the municipality, Gopal Lama, additional district magistrate, Darjeeling said: “There is no competition. We are all doing our bit. It is a joint effort that will help restore normalcy in the town.”
Despite the natural calamity the ongoing closure of the Hills continues with only the rallies suspended in Darjeeling town on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We feel that we have been pushed back to the dark ages. There is no electricity, thus no television, the charge of cell phones have run out. We can’t go outdoors owing to the rain and cyclonic winds. With two days of power breakdown, I went out in search of candles today but could not find any owing to the bandh. I don’t know how my family will survive the power failure,” said a local resident.
The town silently watched the festival of Rakhi Purnima go by. With post offices and courier services closed, rakhis dispatched failed to arrive.
Even the “Jhakris” (Shamans) who usually dance and sing on the day of Rakhi at the Mahakal temple in Darjeeling town preferred to remain indoors owing to the bandh and the inclement weather.
Only a few groups were seen on the streets.